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Petite Lili, La
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Leave it to the French to lure people into watching Chekov."
4 stars

Getting someone to sit through an evening of the work of Chekov can be like getting them to eat their Brussels sprouts; even though they may realize that it will be good for them, it is usually incredibly difficult to convince them to take a bite. Leave it to the French filmmaker Claude Miller to figure out the perfect inducement to lure viewers to “La Petite Lili”, his update of “The Seagull”-the presence of superhot French babe Ludivine Sagnier, who sets pulses racing in last year’s “Swimming Pool”, as one of the central players.

She stars as Lili, a not-so-innocent girl who serves as the muse for her boyfriend Julien (Robinson Stevenin), an aspiring filmmaker who is equal parts achingly sincere, wildly pretentious and extraordinarily thin-skinned. At a family gathering during which Julien unveils his latest opus, Lili finds herself both a pawn and a player in a dramatic battle of wills involving her boyfriend, his egocentric actress mother (Nicole Garcia) and the mother’s boyfriend (Bernard Giraudeau), a director of slick, silly and successful films and other family and friends during the long and eventful weekend. A few years later, during which the fortunes and lives of several of them have changed dramatically, they come together again uneasily when one of them decides to transform those events into art.

For those familiar with Miller’s often-shocking previous works, “Le Petite Lili” may come as a surprise simply because it is so low-key and devoid of the button-pushing he has been known for. Instead, this is a slight, sincere work that feels as if inspired by the grand passion of the younger director in the story but put on film by the older one. The standout element, frankly, is Sagnier (who won the Best Actress award from the Chicago International Film Festival last year for her work here) and not just because of her incredible sexiness. (All I will say in that regard is that fans of her work in “Swimming Pool” should not miss the first couple of minutes of this one.) Her character goes through some significant changes about halfway through the film and in the hands of an unskilled performer the change (upon which the film lives or dies) would have come off as forced. However, she pulls it off with a smart, subtle performance that confirms that she is indeed a talented and resourceful actress and not just someone around to fill out a bikini.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11144&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/09/04 23:54:17
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USA
  12-Nov-2004

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